Over at The Recipes Project, English professor Amy L. Tigner talks about the process of making ink from scratch. It’s a project she did for and with her students at University of Texas, and involved finding the right centuries-old recipe to try:
I considered several different early modern recipes, but I finally decided on one of the several recipes in the Mary Grenville family receipt book manuscript (Folger V.a.430), because it was in English (some of the recipes are in Spanish) and it was the simplest in terms of ingredients, steps, and time.
…the process of ink making turned out to be more expensive and more time-consuming that I had imagined, though both of these factors were also likely similar in the period and in the end a great learning experience. I cheated a bit by looking on some ink-making websites that were quite helpful (especially, this one), as it explained about the chemistry of the ink making and also translated some of the recipe terms, such as “copperas” into “ferrous sulfate.”
On the ink-making day, students assembled the ingredients following the recipe. The most surprising and exciting part was adding the ferrous sulfate, which turned the formerly beer-brown liquid into the blackest black.
The ink turned out to be very good in terms of viscosity and color–and I’d argue better than the run of the mill India ink you can buy on the market. Students really loved the project, especially as they were actively involved, and I am certainly planning to make ink the next time I teach a manuscripts class, though perhaps I will try a different recipe.
Definitely read the whole post for different ingredients, what she spent, and the time involved.
Would you ever try to make your own ink? Have you ever made your own paper or pencils or other writing materials? Share your story in the comments.
I like getting postcards almost more than I like full letters. That’s because postcards are often cool images, and they give me a chance to decorate my walls with small pictures of places, copies of beautiful art, or even text art that’s meaningful, if only because it reminds me of the person who sent it.
I’ve seen some really cool postcards on Instagram so far this month, and I want more! So please share pictures of the postcards you’ve received and the ones you’re sending out in the comments below or using the hashtag #lettermo on Instagram or on Twitter. I’ll reshare them and post my favorites on the blog next week.
However, there does come a point where technology takes all the fun out of things, and we may have reached that point with a service offered by a company called Bond. From a Fast Company profile done on them last year:
Bond wants to retain the delight of giving and receiving notes, without the hassle of heading to the stationery store, writing out a letter, finding stamps, and locating a mailbox. “Nobody has ever said, ‘You know what’s awesome? I had the best experience at American Greetings,'” said Caberwal. Bond wants to bring the romance back to letter writing with a more modern experience. “We have really set out to reimagine what that would look like—how we can create a truly personal experience that lets people deliver that personal touch that is truly theirs, but let them do it from anywhere,” he added.
Thanks to Bond’s robots, writing a note is indeed as easy as shooting off an email. That is, after the initial intake process, which involves completing and returning a handwriting sample designed to extract a person’s distinctive handwriting characteristics and style. The bot doesn’t just copy letters; it learns spacing patterns, angulation, how a person connects certain letters, and how far someone veers from the margins. Those details are what make your handwriting yours. For a computer to fully learn the nuances of a person’s penmanship would take pages and pages of samples. To avoid a too laborious a sign-up, the typeface specialists at Bond have whittled the process down to a couple of paragraphs, which allows for a pretty accurate representation of your handwriting, if not a 100% copy. For an added personal touch, there’s also a page where you can draw or select a doodle, like a smiley or peace sign, as your signature stamp.
The service is a little more expensive now than when this article went up as it seems most cards are $5 each. There is also apparently a smartphone app on the horizon that will allow you to send notes directly from there.
Given that I am a fan of sending postcards from my smartphone you’d think I’d be down with this, too. I’m actually on the fence about it. Handwritten notes should be written by hand, I feel. I don’t think sending a typed note is less personal. Thus, I feel like this is not the best combination of tech and note sending.
But I want to hear your thoughts, LetterMo community! Is Bond a service you would ever use? Why or why not? Have any of you used it before? tell us your experience!
Last year, LetterMo community member Nina shared with us some quick and easy ways to create mail art. Since then I’ve been paying attention to some of the gorgeous envelopes, letter sleeves, wax seals, stamps, and other decoration on the letters people share in the forums, on Instagram, and on Twitter. I’m deeply jealous of those of you with a good sense of visual beauty.
I want to see more and share more of your mail art and decorations, so please post them to Twitter or Instagram and tag them #lettermo. I’ll share them on the social media accounts and post my favorites here on the blog next week!
image credit: Instagram users @rocaduma and @dovbee
Today’s guest blogger is LetterMo Community Member Bridget Larsen, who is originally from the island of Fiji in the South Pacific and now calls Brisbane, Queensland in Australia home. One of her favourite and ongoing passions is crafting in all forms: Mixed Media, Card Making, Scrapbooking and Photography. She designs and teaches at craft stores, retreats and craft shows around Australia and at a retreat in the US. Be sure to check out her blog and Pinterest page.
I started letter writing when I was 12 years old and loved every aspect of it. I moved to emails and texts but missed seeing a handwritten letter in my mailbox so I started penpalling again 3 years ago and have met lots of lovely people around the world. I also met face to face with a few people here in Australia through postcrossing.
So I will be Guestblogging for Lettermo today with a wonderful story that started from a chance encounter with a dedicated school teacher in Illinois USA who is a member of Postcrossing. I happened to come across her request for postcrossers to send postcards to her 5 year old pupils who loved her postcards that she received and wanted their own. Each year has as different set of children to write to. This will be my second year of sending to her students. I wanted to be a part of her class curriculum because the trend of letter writing is fast becoming obsolete with technology ruling the world.
I sent the children Tim Tam biscuits, they are best eaten by biting off a little of both ends and sucking your coffee or tea through the biscuit. The factory is just down the road from where we live. The children loved it. I also sent baby koala soft toys for each of them, and Australian Girl Guide biscuits. Connie told me they were a hit. I sent them some vegemite too which is a favourite spread of every child in Australia and the Pacific-somehow that was not a favourite and is an acquired taste.
My postcards that I sent them are about the animals in Australia. Connie does lessons about the animals and most things I send them. She has set up walls with all our postcards from around the world.
The above photos are courtesy of Connie Szorc and have been printed with her permission.
I received from them this month a wonderful parcel which was overwhelming. Connie knew that I love cooking and recipes so she got together with the parents to make a cookbook of their favourite recipes to send to me. I’m going to be trying every recipe in that book.
These are the recipe postcards they also bought and write on. I chose to write to all 22 of the students, I couldn’t just pick a few.
Connie said this programme she has going for the children have been truly life changing for their young lives. It has definitely been life changing for me as I have never had penpals so young. The innocence in their writing is so refreshing.
I asked Connie if she would like to contribute to this guest blog and the following is what she wrote:
My name is Connie, and I am a preschool teacher at Batavia Covenant Preschool, Batavia, IL USA. For a very long time I had been wanting to find pen pals for students and for some reason it never seemed to work out. As chance would have it I came across Postcrossing and it truly changed my classroom. My original intention was for my students to see a world beyond their backyard. I hoped we might learn a little about geography, different kinds of foods, fun activities children around the world might enjoy, and of course learn about different native animals. What I never expected was how Postcrossing and letter writing could have turned into so much more. One very special day I was lucky enough to meet Bridget from Australia. She wanted to share Australia with all of my students. She told us about koala bears and kangaroos. We took time to read books about Australia, and then find it on the map. We read all we could about koalas and kangaroos. Then one day a package came filled with postcards and information and best of all Tim Tams. We all learned how much we loved those cookies. Bridget also told us about a food called Vegemite, we had never heard of it, but after a trip to a local store that deals in different cultural foods, we found it. We discovered we liked Tim Tams much more than Vegemite.
Postcards and writing started out as a way for my class to learn about the world we live in, instead we have made many friends. My students now understand the value of a written note, and they have learned they can do a random act of kindness just by picking up a pencil (or crayon) and tell someone about their day. The best part, because they are young their parents have become just as involved. Bridget not only touched my classroom with her letters and words, but she has touched their families as well.
What we have come to learn from Postcrossing and letter writing is that people all around the world are pretty amazing. We now think of Bridget as one of our best friends. All I have to do is say we received postcards from Bridget and my students know exactly who I mean.
My student’s parents often tell me how much they love this project, and I say “I do too!”
We are entering the final full week of the Month of Letters! Hopefully you’ve started getting some replies to the letters and postcards and packages you’ve sent out or letters from your LetterMo participating friends. However, if you are starting to run out of people to write to, we have some suggestions for finding grateful recipients:
Getting personal letters in the mail is still pretty rare, even with this yearly challenge and the valiant efforts of entities like the Letter Writers Alliance. That means many of them are special in some way because they arrived in our mailbox at all. Still, there are letters that stick with one, perhaps because of who sent it, what they said, the envelope it came in, the package it came attached to, even the stamp used.
We’d love for you to share your most memorable letters in the comments below. Tell us the story of it–the parts that aren’t too personal, of course. Do you still have it?
Stamps are an awesome form of art, don’t you think? They’re tiny, they’re meant to be marked on, they get put on envelopes and sent out into a cruel world of rain and wind and automatic sorting machines. Some are placed without a second thought, their only purpose as proof of payment for a service. Others are coveted and used judiciously to reflect something about the sender or something about the recipient. Sometimes both.
Every year for Month of Letters I buy a stock of stamps, and every year I end up with surplus because I don’t want to use up the good ones (like the circular Batman logo ones!) on just any old letter and every trip to a new post office means the chance to grab a design I don’t have yet.
It’s a problem.
I bet more than one of you out there have this problem as well.
Even if you don’t, I know you have a stamp or even several stamps you bought for your own letter sending purposes or received in the mail so far. Snap a picture and share it with us on Twitter and Instagram using the #lettermo hashtag. Later this month I’ll share some of the coolest ones on the blog.
A day for love! Whether that love is romantic, familial, or platonic, it should be celebrated. So put aside the cynicism about corporate manufacturing of holidays and look for ways to express your love for someone close today. If you haven’t mailed a Valentine, grab an index card and a pen and write a sweet note to hand deliver. If you want some inspiration on that point, read this post.